Server rooms have been an integral part of IT departments for decades. These restricted-access rooms are usually hidden away in the bowels of a building, pulsing to the rhythm of spinning hard drives and air conditioning systems.
It’s a measure of the internet’s impact on computer networks and website hosting that cloud servers are becoming the norm rather than the exception. Databases and directories are hosted by a third party organization in a dedicated data center – effectively a giant offsite server room. Rather than each company requiring its own cluster of RAID disks and security/fire protection infrastructure, multiple clients can be serviced from one location to achieve huge economies of scale.
Even though 100TB is renowned for the quality of our cloud server hosting services, we recognize that this option isn’t for everyone. In this article, we look at the pros and cons of cloud servers, offering you a guide to determine whether it represents the optimal choice for your business. After all, those server rooms haven’t been rendered completely obsolete yet…
What is cloud server hosting?
Before we explore the advantages and disadvantages of this model, let’s take a moment to consider how it actually works. As an example, the servers powering 100TB’s infrastructure are based in 26 data centers around the world. Having a local center minimizes the time information takes to travel between a server and a user in that country or region, since every node and relay fractionally adds to the transfer time. Delays of 50 milliseconds might not be significant for a bulletin board, but they could be critical for a new streaming service. Irrespective of data request volumes, web pages and other hosted content should be instantly – and constantly – accessible.
There are two types of cloud hosting, whose merits and drawbacks are considered below:
- Managed cloud. As the name suggests, managed hosting includes maintenance and technical support. Servers can be shared between several clients with modest technical requirements to reduce costs, with tech support always on hand.
- Unmanaged cloud. A third party provides hardware infrastructure like disks and bandwidth, while the client supervises software updates and security issues. It’s basically the online equivalent of having a new server room, filled with empty hardware.
The advantages of cloud server hosting
The first advantage of using the cloud, and perhaps the most significant, is being able to delegate technical responsibility to a qualified third party. Even by the standards of the IT sector, networks are laced with technical terminology and require regular maintenance to protect them against evolving security flaws. Outsourcing web hosting and database management liberates you from jargon-busting, allowing you to concentrate on core competencies such as developing new products and services. You effectively acquire a freelance IT department, operating discreetly behind the scenes.
Cloud computing is ideal for website hosting, where traffic may originate on any continent with audiences expecting near-instant response times. The majority of consumers will abandon a web page if it takes more than three seconds to load, so having high-speed servers with impressive connectivity around the world will ensure end user connection speeds are the only real barrier to rapid display times. Also, don’t forget that page loading speeds have become a key metric in search engine ranking results.
Price and performance
Cost is another benefit, as the requisite scalable resources ensure that clients only pay for the services they need. If you prefer to manage your own LAMP stacks and install your own security patches, unmanaged hosting is surprisingly affordable. A single-website small business will typically require a modest amount of bandwidth, with resources hosted on a shared server for cost-effectiveness. Yet any spikes in traffic can be instantly met, without requiring permanent allocation of additional hardware. And more resources can be made available as the company grows – including a dedicated server.
As anyone familiar with peer-to-peer file sharing will appreciate, transferring data from one platform to another can be frustratingly slow. Cloud computing often deploys multiple servers to minimize transfer times, with additional devices sharing the bandwidth and taking up any slack. This is particularly important for clients whose data is being accessed internationally.
Earlier on, we outlined the differences between managed and unmanaged hosting. Their merits also vary:
- Unmanaged hosting is similar to having your own server, since patches and installs are your own responsibility. For companies with qualified IT staff already on hand, that might seem more appealing than outsourcing it altogether. With full administrative access via cPanel and the freedom to choose your own OS and software stacks, an unmanaged account is ideal for those who want complete control over their network and software. This is also the cheaper option.
- By contrast, managed cloud hosting places you in the hands of experienced IT professionals. This is great if you don’t know your HTTP from your HTML. Technical support is on-hand at any time of day or night, though there probably won’t be many issues to concern you. Data centers are staffed and managed by networking experts who preemptively identify security threats, while ensuring every server and bandwidth connection is performing optimally.
Whether you prefer the control of an unmanaged package or the support provided by managed solutions, cloud servers represent fully isolated and incredibly secure environments. Our own data centers feature physical and biometric security alongside CCTV monitoring. Fully redundant networks ensure constant connectivity, while enterprise-grade hardware firewalls are designed to repel malware and DDoS attacks. We’ll even provide unlimited SSL certificates for ecommerce websites or confidential services.
The drawbacks of cloud server hosting
lthough we’re big fans of cloud hosting, we do recognize it’s not suitable for every company. These are some of the drawbacks to hosting your networks and servers in the cloud:
Firstly, some IT managers like the reassurance of physically owning and supervising their servers, in the same way traditionalists still favor installing software from a CD over cloud-hosted alternatives. Many computing professionals are comfortably familiar with the intricacies of bare metal servers, and prefer to have everything under one roof. If you already own a well-stocked server room, cloud hosting may not be cost effective or even necessary.
Entrusting key service delivery to a third-party means your reputation is only as good as their performance. Some cloud hosting companies limit monthly bandwidth, applying substantial excess-use charges. Others struggle with downtime – those service outages and reboots that take your websites or files offline, sometimes without warning. Even blue chip cloud services like Dropbox and iCloud have historically suffered lengthy outages. Clients won’t be impressed if you’re forced to blame unavailable services on a partner organization as their contract is ultimately with you.
Less scrupulous hosting partners might stealthily increase account costs every year, hoping their time-poor clients won’t want the upheaval and uncertainty of migrating systems to a competitor. Migrating to a better cloud hosting company can become logistically complex, though 100TB will do everything in our power to smooth out any transitional bumps. By contrast, a well-installed and modern RAID system should provide many years of dependable service without making a significant appearance on the end-of-year balance sheet.
Clouds on the horizon
Handing responsibility for your web pages and databases to an external company requires a leap of faith. You’re surrendering control over server upgrades and software patches, allowing a team of strangers to decide what hardware is best placed to service your business. Web hosting companies have large workforces, where speaking to a particular person can be far more challenging than calling Bob in your own IT division via the switchboard. Decisions about where your content is hosted will be made by people you’ve never met, and you’ll be informed (but not necessarily consulted) about hardware upgrades and policy changes.
Finally, cloud systems are only as dependable as the internet connection powering them. If you’re using cloud servers to host corporate documents, but your broadband provider is unreliable, it won’t be long before productivity and profitability begin to suffer. Conversely, a network server hosted downstairs can operate across a LAN, even if you’re unable to send and receive email or access the internet.
To cloud host or not?
In fairness, connection outages are likely to become increasingly anachronistic as broadband speeds increase and development of future technologies like Li-Fi continues. We are moving towards an increasingly cloud-based society, from Internet of Things-enabled smart devices to streaming media and social networks. A growing percentage of this content is entirely hosted online, and it’ll become unacceptable for ISPs to provide anything less than high-speed always-on broadband.
Trusting the experts
If you believe cloud hosting might represent a viable option for your business, don’t jump in with both feet. Speak to 100TB for honest and unbiased advice about whether the cloud offers a better alternative than a bare metal server or a self-installed RAID setup. Our friendly experts will also reassure you about the dependability of our premium networks, which come with a 99.999 per cent service level agreement. We even offer up to 1,024 terabytes of bandwidth, as part of our enormous global network capacity.